Wednesday, April 17, 2019

SHAZAM! (a movie review post)

Before I get into the nitty gritty of this review, I'm going to say two things:
1. SHAZAM! is good. It's fun.
2. It's by far the best DC movie that Warner Brothers has been able to put together.
So let me go back to point one: SHAZAM! is good. Not great, not even very good, just... good. If I were ranking all of the Marvel (MCU) movies, I'd probably put Iron Man 3 at the bottom of that list; SHAZAM! rises to about that level. Put another way, it's around the level of most of Fox's X-Men movies. Not the best X-Men movies, just the bulk of them. Like definitely better than the dumb Wolverine origin movie.

It feels somehow appropriate to me that the only movie Warner Brothers has been able to pull off with a solid story (since Batman Begins) is with a character DC stole from an independent comic publisher.
But that's not a story for this post, and one you can look up for yourself if you're so inclined.

As with most DC movies these days, they're a little sparse on the origin side of things. Not with Billy Batson, per se, but with everything else. Mostly with anything and everything to do with The Seven Deadly Sins. There's no explanation provided as to what these are other than that, basically, the previous champion, some thousands of years ago, let them out of a box all Pandora style because he failed to be pure of heart. But, without a religious context, none of this make any sense, and they don't provide a religious context other than "Wisdom of Solomon." [And I have to say, if the Wisdom of Solomon is supposed to be one of Captain Marvel/Shazam's super powers, they really don't put it to good use.]

Then there's the wizard... Um... Why? I mean, not why is there a wizard, but why all of it? Why is he the last of seven; meaning, why didn't the wizards do anything about replacing the wizards as they began to die off? How did he come to be the last one? That seems more than a little on the stupid side. And I'm assuming there are seven wizards to stand opposed to The Seven Deadly Sins but, again, why? None of this is explained. Also, he's goofy. It's good that he wasn't in more of the movie.

However, in most ways, the actors make up for the deficits in the story. Zachary Levi is Chuck but on a more epic scale. He's perfect for the role, and it may be DC's first real bit of "nailed it" casting. Well, I think Ben Affleck is pretty spot on for Batman, but I may be in the minority for that. Asher Angel is also great as Billy Batson, though he plays Billy a bit more rough around the edges than Levi plays Shazam. Levi certainly brings a lot more "wide-eyed innocence" to the adult version of Billy than Angel brings to the 14-year-old version. But, you know, that's fine. They were both enjoyable to watch.

Mark Strong is fine as the villain. The character has no real depth, so it's not like he had to do more than just be menacing. I don't think anyone else could have done anymore with the role than he did. Well... Maybe Nicolas Cage; he has a certain kind of crazy that might have gone well in the role.

And not be spoilery, but look away if you don't want to be spoiled.

I think the biggest failing of the movie is the ending. DC/Warner Brothers seems to be intent on having huge mega-battle endings. Like ending Wonder Woman with a battle with the God of War. It was an unnecessary jump that I think hurt the film. And, so, like that, SHAZAM! ends with a battle wherein he creates the whole Shazam family. The movie does no real setup for it, and it ruined a confrontation that should have come down to Shazam against Dr. Sivana. There was no need for the too large battle with all of the Sins and the added... shazams? It didn't make the ending better. It was just added muddle.

But, you know, all of the stuff after the beginning of the movie and before the ending is great! Don't let it sound like I thought it was a bad movie. It wasn't. It was totally fine and enjoyable and worth seeing on the big screen if you want to see it. It's a step in the right direction for DC. It's small, but it's a step.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Stop This Crazy Thing! (Existential Violence, part three)

Let's go back for a moment, one more time, to my first post on this:
Part of the problem with the midlife crisis of motorcycle dude was that it wasn't sustainable. I don't think these kinds of things ever are. As I said, the wife who worked in the flower shop didn't work there, initially, because she needed to: It was just an avenue for social interaction for her. However, one of the things she frequently talked about was her fear that her job would actually become necessary due to all of the money her husband was spending on his reckless behavior. She didn't handle the money beyond what she made in the flower shop, so she didn't even know how he was doing things like buying little red sports cars and street-racing motorcycles at the drop of a hat. Not to mention the various medical bills they'd incurred due to his injuries from his... activities.

Unfortunately (for you), I don't know how all of that worked out. Summer came to an end, and I went back to school. I've never really even thought about it again until recently. My question, now, is whether she ever got to a point where she said, "Enough is enough. Stop this shit now." Or did he kill himself? Or did he work through his issues without killing himself before she got to that point? Since it was only his own life he was endangering (well, except for some other people who were endangering their lives in the same way as he was), did she even have a right to tell him to stop?

This is where everything gets complicated.

But let's look at things another way:

When I was a sophomore in college, I was coming back from some place or other with a friend in his car. We got into one of those deep philosophical questions that college students are apt to get into:
If the speed limit is 65mph, why does the speedometer go all the way up to 120mph? Does the car really go that fast, or is it just to make you think that the car could go that fast? I suppose this was an important question to us, but, for me, it was just an abstract one... until we started talking about how fast we'd ever driven.

Now, as I mentioned last post, I had a Hyundai. The speedometer in it only went up to 100mph, but I liked to joke that the car wouldn't even fall that fast, and the fastest I'd driven it was in the 75mph range, and that was more a function of the fact that I was listening to music and kind of just going along with the traffic... until I looked down and saw how fast I was going and slowed back down to the speed limit. Yes, even at 20, I wasn't a speeder. At least not on purpose.

My friend, though, was one of those people who didn't believe in going under the speed limit and, even as we were discussing all of this, we were zipping along in the 75 range. He admitted to having gone 90 on multiple occasions, then began to lament how he'd never gone up to 100. This while in the midst of the discussion of why his speedometer went to 120. At which point he did something that I was adamantly not okay with: He said, "Let's find out," and, as the saying goes, put the pedal to the metal.

I'm going to say three things about this:
At 100mph, you are no longer really driving a car, at least not a car that's not made for those kinds of speeds with the kinds of tires designed to allow you to keep control of your car. I wasn't driving, but I could still feel that the car was doing something more akin to gliding, like a toboggan going down a snowy slope. We were fortunate that the road was fairly straight where we were in East Texas at that point.
However, hills, even smalls ones, are not your friend at those kinds of speeds.
After going 100, 70 feels slow.

Also, I never got back into a car with him again with him as the driver.

The problem here is that I was a nonconsensual partner in what he was doing, and it was life-threatening. We were lucky. Fortunately, once he got above 100 and felt like he couldn't make the car go any faster without burning up the engine, he took his foot off the gas and let it slow back down. However, I protested the whole thing the whole time it was happening; it's not like I was a silent partner in the whole business, and he ignored what I was saying until he'd done what he wanted to do.

And this is how I feel, kind of all the time, in the U.S. right now. Like I'm stuck in a car with some dude in the midst of midlife crisis who is doing his best to get his car up to 120mph, and I have no way to make him stop. Or stick more closely to the analogy, I'm hanging on for dear life to some guy on a dirt bike while he speeds along one of those dirt bike tracks with all the hills and stuff and my options are to keep holding on until he crashes or to let go and hope the fall doesn't kill me.

Which makes me wonder if there was a part of motorcycle dude's brain screaming to be let off during his whole breakdown with reality.

But I kind of doubt it, because when you're in a state like that, you are left without any ability to reason. Like about 1/3 of the country, right now, driving us down the freeway at top speed with no intent to slow down. And they can't see the danger or, even, comprehend that there might be danger. And they don't really care, because  they think they have it all under control.

Anyway... I had intended this to only be three parts, but this post is getting long, so it looks like I'm going to have to do one more.